What are the risks of sitting too much?

Answer From Edward R. Laskowski, M.D.

When you sit, you use less energy than you do when you stand or move.

Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns. They include obesity and a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and unhealthy cholesterol levels — that make up metabolic syndrome. Too much sitting overall and prolonged periods of sitting also seem to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Any extended sitting — such as at a desk, behind a wheel or in front of a screen — can be harmful.

Researchers analyzed 13 studies of sitting time and activity levels. They found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to that posed by obesity and smoking. However, unlike some other studies, this analysis of data from more than 1 million people found that 60 to 75 minutes of moderately intense physical activity a day countered the effects of too much sitting. Other studies have found that for people who are most active sitting time contributes little to their risk of death.

Overall, research seems to point to the fact that less sitting and more moving contribute to better health. You might start by simply standing rather than sitting when you have the chance. Or find ways to walk while you work. For example:

  • Take a break from sitting every 30 minutes.
  • Stand while talking on the phone or watching television.
  • If you work at a desk, try a standing desk — or improvise with a high table or counter.
  • Walk with your colleagues for meetings rather than sitting in a conference room.
  • Position your work surface above a treadmill — with a computer screen and keyboard on a stand or a specialized treadmill-ready vertical desk — so that you can be in motion throughout the day.

The impact of movement — even leisurely movement — can be profound. For starters, you'll burn more calories. This might lead to weight loss and increased energy. Also, physical activity helps maintain muscle tone, your ability to move and your mental well-being, especially as you age.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

July 13, 2022 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. 3 ways to avoid secondhand smoke
  2. 7 signs and symptoms not to ignore
  3. Animal bites: Do you need a tetanus shot?
  4. Are you doing everything you can to stay healthy?
  5. Belching, intestinal gas, gas pains and bloating
  6. Bone health tips
  7. Cancer-prevention strategies
  8. Colon cancer screening
  9. COVID-19: How can I protect myself?
  10. Plastic surgery
  11. Herd immunity and coronavirus
  12. Long-term effects of COVID-19
  13. COVID-19 travel advice
  14. Different COVID-19 vaccines
  15. Do adults need shots?
  16. Don't save leftover pain pills
  17. Exercise: Check with your doctor
  18. Fight coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission at home
  19. Flu Shot Prevents Heart Attack
  20. Hand drying
  21. Hand-washing tips
  22. Heart attack prevention: Should I avoid secondhand smoke?
  23. Home Health Hazards
  24. How social support spurs you
  25. How to take your pulse
  26. How to take your temperature
  27. How well do face masks protect against COVID-19?
  28. How well do you wash your hands?
  29. Injury Season for Snow Blowers
  30. Investing in yourself
  31. Is antibacterial soap a do or a don't?
  32. Keep the focus on your long-term vision
  33. Lost in Space
  34. Mammogram guidelines: What are they?
  35. Mayo Clinic Minute: You're washing your hands all wrong
  36. Mayo Clinic Minute: How dirty are common surfaces?
  37. Measles vaccine: Can I get the measles if I've already been vaccinated?
  38. Infographic: Organ Donation Donate Life
  39. Infographic: Paired Donation Chain
  40. Infographic: Pancreas Kidney Transplant
  41. Personal health records
  42. Personalize your wellness journey
  43. Posture check: Do you stand up straight?
  44. Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic
  45. Good posture tips
  46. Back exercises
  47. Proper lifting techniques
  48. Travel Safety
  49. Using if-then statements
  50. Vaccine guidance from Mayo Clinic
  51. Vaccines for adults
  52. What are superbugs?
  53. What are superbugs and how can I protect myself from infection?
  54. What is thirdhand smoke, and why is it a concern?
  55. Air purifiers and smoke